Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Fable of the Tree

In a forest, deep in a woods, long ago, there was a learning tree. And people would come from miles around to sit under the tree because if you sat under that tree, knowledge would enter your mind, and you would know many things that you never had to learn the hard way.

But one day, a wind arose and it began to rain, and the tree was struck by lightning. The tree was split apart, and shattered, and its leaves flew over the land and landed in many places. After the storm, people came back to where the tree had stood, only to find that in its place was a stump. To this day, when people don't have the knowledge they want, they call it being stumped.

They tried to sit where they once did, but now everything was different from before. They could not absorb the great wisdom that would flow into them as it once had done. The people were troubled. "How are we to know what there is to know?" they asked. Just then, a little boy stumbled on the stump, and fell over. As he lay there, he called out, "I just learned something new!" "What?" called the people.

"If you trip over a stump, you are bound to fall down," said the little boy. The people were amazed. How did he learn this bit of knowledge? They looked at each other and then at the boy. Then, suddenly, they understood something that they never could realize in the days when knowledge came so easily: that experience was another route to learning. They began to seek further understanding by going forth into the world of experience. But, as time passed, they discovered that there was too big a world and too small a time to learn what was needed to know.

By now, the little boy had grown to manhood, and he had many, many experiences of the big world. But, being the way he was, he was curious. One day, it dawned on him how to have more knowledge than he could through his own experience. He began to ask other people about their experiences. Much to his amazement, he found he could gain knowledge vicariously through the many, many experiences everyone had. The world, which was big indeed, became both bigger and smaller at once. Bigger in the fact that he was able to know more than he could ever personally experience, and smaller because he did not need to go everywhere to see, and hear, and smell, and touch all that there was. When people asked him how he knew so much, he told them his insight. They were amazed. So they began to listen and learn through all of the experiences that everyone had, and the world became even bigger and smaller. And they were very happy about what they had learned.

But one day, someone stopped listening to everyone. Instead, they only listened to people who had similar experiences they had. Groups formed based on how some agreed that the world was this way, and others thought it was that way. No one knew who was right, so they began to argue about it. Then they fought about it. And the world got smaller and smaller, and all of the wonders that were there became invisible to them.

And so, they went on, not listening to each other, not sharing their experiences, not even learning from any experiences, but from their concepts of what was supposed to be true. And the world became darker and darker.

Then one day, in the place where the first tree grew, another tree grew in its place. And some people began to sit under the tree. But instead of knowledge filling their heads, an insight took place. That of looking, seeing, observing, exploring, experiencing, and then sharing what was understood. And as more and more people sat under that tree, the world became bigger and bigger and smaller and smaller again. And they all lived happily ever after.

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